“These documentary practices coalesced into a visual culture which, with its aptitude for capturing and transmitting collective emotions, became a tool for political propaganda,” write Hannah Darabi and Chowra Makaremi. They’re talking about the work produced in Iran in the years 1979-83, the period after the fall of the Shah and at the start of the Islamic government and a time in which freedom of speech briefly flourished, they argue, before descending into something darker.
“These few years stand out on their own in terms of the country’s publishing history,” adds Makaremi. “The creation and distribution of books would never be as unfettered as it was during this period. Nevertheless, at the same moment, books were also progressively becoming instruments of political propaganda and publishing became the laboratory in which to experiment with every form of dissemination of emotions, ideologies, and opinions. This propaganda operated through the production of texts, but also, and especially as of 1979, through visual and pictorial production.”
Darabi is a visual artist and collector who was born in 1981 in Tehran but is now based in Paris; her collection of Iranian photobooks make up the backbone of Le Bal’s latest exhibition, along with her own photographic “reconstructions”, creating using contemporary photographs of Tehran and archive images such as family snaps, press images, and postcards. Makaremi, a tenured researcher and a member of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, has “decrypted” the exhibition; in addition, Le Bal and Spector Books have worked with Darabi to create an accompanying photobook, with an introduction by Makaremi.
2019 marks a quarter of a century since Val Williams’ curated her seminal exhibition, Who’s looking at the family? at the Barbican in London. In photography, a lot has changed over 25 years, including the introduction of new technologies that have reshaped the way in which we make and consume images, and the changing definitions of what constitutes a photographer.
“On the one hand I thought it might be interesting to speculatively chart that development, but also to rethink notions of the family at the same time,” says Tim Clark, editor of 1000 words magazine and curator of this year’s Photo50 exhibition at London Art Fair. “The idea seemed to chime with a lot of people. I think that’s the key point about family, it’s a great unifying subject. Everyone can relate to it.”
Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1988, Hashem Shakeri studied architecture in TAFE (New South Wales Technical and Further Education Commission of Australia), and started his professional photography career in 2010. In 2015 he was Commended in the Ian Parry Scholarship, and in 2017 his images were included in the Rencontres d’Arles exhibition Iran, Year 38, alongside work by photographers such as Abbas Kiarostami and Newsha Tavakolian.
Shakeri’s ongoing series on climate change in Sistan and Balouchestan looks at the effect of drought in the Iranian province, which is located in the southeast of the country, bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has been suffering from drought for the last 18 years, which has created severe famine in a region once famed for its agriculture and forests. “Nowadays, the Sistan region has faced astonishing climate change, which has turned this wide area into an infertile desert empty of people,” writes Shakeri.
“Her project talks about the identity that the state wants women to project in public,” says Vivienne Gamble, director of Seen Fifteen and now curator of the show Catharsis for Belfast Exposed. “She comes from a family where they didn’t have those rules behind closed doors at home. She was conflicted about having this public-facing image, and this different, much more relaxed and liberal, private existence.” She’s talking about Shenasmenah, a project by Iranian-born photographer, filmmaker and curator Amak Mahmoodian included in the three-person Catharsis show.
“I meet people with more empathy and more care towards one another in war situations or in conflict around the world than I have ever experienced in Europe. People want to share the little they have with me because I have talked to them and shown an interest in them,” says Jan Grarup. His work has taken him to the sites of the worst conflicts – from obvious examples such as Iraq and Iran, to forgotten areas like the Central African Republic. Each place he visits, he stays to learn about the culture and customs of the people before taking their photographs. In these places of despair and destruction, Grarup often finds hope and resilience. But the Western world needs to be more active and share the responsibility to help these regions return to a peaceful existence.
Returning for its eight edition from 13 September, Tbilisi Photo is an international festival in the heart of the Caucasus which hopes to bridge the image-making communities from across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. This year themed Fashion, the diverse programme includes a look at Guy Bourdin’s iconic oeuvre, the Dutch artist Viviane Sassen’s approach to fashion photography, and an exclusive display of Iranian fashion magazines published before the Islamic revolution in 1978.
Global business developer for Magnum Photos and founder of Firecracker, Fiona Rogers picks out her top five from the Arles festival and its fringe events – the group show Iran, Year 38; Looking for Lenin by Niels Ackermann; The Incurable Egoist by Masahisa Fukase; Life in Cities by Michael Wolf; and The Island of the Colorblind by Sanne De Wilde
No matter how hard you try, sometimes Arles can be just like Glastonbury (sans mud) – lots of things going on and you get sidetracked, and don’t get to see the one thing you wanted to. However I did manage to get round a diverse group of exhibits this year, one of my favourites actually being the Alice Neel painting show at the Fondation Van Gogh. Here is my round-up of what I saw of note this edition. The House of the Ballenesque, Roger Ballen This was very talked about in Arles – an old ramshackle house that Ballen has taken over, to express somewhat of what goes on in his mind and informs his photography. Like a giant walk-in sketchbook, it’s part fun-house and part mental asylum, with lots of creepy figures and dolls heads stuck on mismatching bodies. It’s worth seeing because it’s a bit different, though it doesn’t quite feel like the main event – it’s more of a fun sideshow to his practice, but interesting nonetheless. Try to go on a …
In October 2016, Maryam Khastoo and Jonathan Clifford went to Iran to work on Khastoo’s ongoing project on her mother. Born to Iranian parents in Wales, Khastoo has visited the country regularly since she was a child, and lived there from 2010-2014; her mother now lives in Tehran, and Khastoo and Clifford spent ten days with her, Khastoo taking photographs and Clifford shooting film. After they’d finished work in the capital they “felt the need to get out” says Clifford, who was raised in Australia, and headed north for the quiet towns between the Caspian Sea and Alborz Mountain range. “Everyone we spoke of our plans with insisted that we go south to Isfahan, Shiraz or Yazd, which are the most common destinations for visitors to Iran due to their historical importance,” says Clifford. “But although these places certainly appealed, the idea of heading north, where Maryam has family, and staying with them on their orange and kiwi orchard, seemed a much better way to unwind after the hustle and chaos of Tehran. “We’d also discussed …
On 7th May 1979 the Iranian newspapers announced a new law had been passed stating all women must wear a headscarf in public. The following day, more than 100,000 women took to the streets to protest. Photographer Hengameh Golestan was there to capture it. “They were demanding the freedom of choice,” Golestan says. “It wasn’t a protest against religion or beliefs, in fact many religious women joined the protest, this was strictly about women’s rights, it was all about having the option.” Despite these demonstrations, the law remained, and newspapers declined to publish Golestan’s pictures. One of only a handful of female photographers working in Iran at the time, Golestan had started taking photographs seven years earlier, at the age of 18. She was inspired by her husband, the late Kaveh Golestan, who died in 2003 after while working in Iraq for the BBC. “I started as his assistant and then continued from there,” she says. “In the days before selfies, Photoshop and citizen journalism, photos were vital, a visual document that might otherwise not …